Cotton Swabs

What are cotton swabs?

Cotton swabs consist of one or two small bits of cotton wrapped around the ends of a short rod made of wood, or plastic. They often used for ear cleaning, but doctor's don't recommend using them that way.

What can I use cotton swabs for?

  • Cleaning around the nostrils of a baby when washing his or her face
  • Cleaning eye makeup from the lids
  • Cleaning fingernails
  • Cleaning cuticles
  • Touching up nail polish
  • Constructing plastic model kits
  • Applying rubbing alcohol
  • Carefully cleaning your ears outside the ear canal

What are some of the medical risks involving cotton swabs?

  • Infection
  • Infection of the conjunctiva (surface of the eye where the eyelashes meet the skin)
  • Infection of the external ear canal
  • Inflammation of the external ear canal
  • Injury and bleeding from the external ear canal

Why do doctors recommend NOT using cotton swabs in the ears?

Using cotton swabs in the ears can cause damage to the ear canal and create an infection or cause an impacted eardrum. The longer the cotton is in the ear, the greater the chance of the cotton getting stuck or causing damage.

What are some other names for cotton swabs?

  • Cotton buds
  • Q-tips
  • Cotton-tipped applicators
  • Cotton buds
  • Cotton swabs
  • Cotton wisps

Will cotton swabs kill germs or disinfect?

  • Not by themselves, but in combination with rubbing alcohol they might.

Can I clean my baby's ear with a cotton swab?

You can't. The cotton swab's tip is too big to fit inside of your baby's ear. The only way to clean an ear with a cotton swab is by touching the end of the cotton tip to the outside of the ear.

How can I keep my baby's ear clean?

  • Clean between your baby's earlobes with a wash cloth and warm water.

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